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Jake Nussbaum loads pallets of backpacks with school supplies into a truck for distribution during the second weekend of Backpack Bash 2021. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette.

Thousands of students are getting back-to-school necessities for free at carnival-themed events across El Paso County the next two Saturdays.

The third annual Backpack Bash allows eligible K-12 students to receive a backpack and grade-appropriate school supplies including markers, pens, binders and notebooks, according to Molly Jacobs, a Backpack Bash administrator.

Most locations will allow students to walk down a line and select which items they want to bring with them on their first day of school.

“The goal is that every student has the resources they need to start the school year off strong,” Jacobs said. Backpack Bash organizers hope to hand out 12,000 backpacks this year.

The event is organized by COSILoveYou. The first event is this Saturday and the second chance for students and their families is Saturday, Aug. 6, from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. at six locations across the county. The Backpack Bash is being coordinated by more than 650 volunteers, with around 40 event partners and 12 sponsors, including Gazette news partner KKTV.

In addition to fun activities like face painting, bounce houses and snow cones at some locations, local vendors will be at the Backpack Bash for families to take advantage of services like food drives, haircuts and immunizations.

A drive-thru is providing a quicker option for families just picking up backpacks and school supplies.

Jacobs said half of the supplies given out at the Backpack Bash will be purchased from event sponsor Walmart, using funding from churches, grants and for-profit partners. The other half will be sourced from school supply drives.

Donated supplies were accepted through mid-July at 32 drop-off locations in El Paso County.

COSILoveYou is also accepting monetary donations to support the cause.

Families do not have to register to attend the Backpack Bash, but students must be present to pick up a bag and school supplies at the location nearest to them.

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